James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘Michele Bachmann’

Batcrap craziness

Posted by James McPherson on July 20, 2012

Batman: “No guns.” (In keeping with the superhero’s longtime no-gun rule.”)

Catwoman: “What fun is that?”

I guess we could ask the folks who attended the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado, huh?

As I’ve written in what became my most-read post, I generally avoid using profanity. But one reason I generally oppose it it because its overuse has made appropriate use almost meaningless. Almost. And today is one of the exceptions, because there has perhaps never been a more appropriate day or week for the term “batshit crazy.”

This week gave us Rush Limbaugh suggesting that the name of a movie character (a name that originated in a 1993 comic book) was a liberal plot against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Then, of course, Rush lied about it the next day.

Next we had John McCain–the McCain we used to remember before he sold his soul to try to win the last presidential election–chastize Michele Bachmann for her latest Muslim plot nonsense. But we know that Bachmann is as batty as Limbaugh.

And though we all know that the blogosphere has become a nutty and nasty place, it was surprising that a negative review of the latest Batman movie would inspire batshit-crazy fans of a comic book character to make death threats against “Rotten Tomatoes” reviewers.

But all of that pales in comparison to today’s news about a costumed gunman killing at least a dozen people at a midnight opening of the latest Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.” It didn’t take long for ABC to commit the first stupid reporting error, and of course the shooting has dominated the cable news networks all day. (It’s probably not such big news in Syria, where having a dozen killed by violence would be considered a good day.)

And so now we’ll have another few days of liberals pointing out the obvious, that easy access to guns in America makes these events far too common here and that conservative talking heads such as “shoot-them-in-the-head” Glenn Beck (however well he may cry about it afterward) and Rush Limbaugh, along with batshit-crazy extremist groups promote violence. Some conservatives will blame mass murder on gay marriage. If all else fails, blame it on violent movies or video games. It’s all so predictable, and too few will acknowledge that many factors are involved.

Perhaps less predictably, truly batshit-crazy NRA types, which Colorado has, may suggest that the carnage would have been reduced if other people in the theater were armed. Oh, wait–batshit-crazy Malkin  and batshit-crazy Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert have already done that. Gohmert also blamed the attacks on “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs”–as did the American Family Association, despite the fact that the killer reportedly was a “brilliant student” from a “church-going family.” Shades of Pat Robertson; life is just too scary when we realize what our demons have in common with the rest of us, I guess.

So, how long until someone (other than a batshit-crazy blogger or two) suggests that the killer is an Obama operative trying to help the president push through gun control, even though we know that it’s now easier to buy a gun and you can carry it in more places than before Obama was elected? Besides, we Americans love our guns. We really love our guns. If the shooting of a Congresswoman and the killing a a cute white girl or the slaughter of college students won’t spur a serious debate about American gun laws, this certainly won’t.

In fact, perhaps part of the “The Dark Knight Rises” should be rewritten.

Batman: “No guns.”

Catwoman: “In America? That’s batshit crazy!”

Next-day addendum: Above I asked how long it would take someone to suggest that the shootings were a government plot to help promote control. Not long at all, as it turned out, thanks to 9/11 “truther” Alex Jones, perhaps the most bat-shit crazy conspiracy theorist in America.

Sunday addendum: Batshit-crazy Truth in Action Ministries spokesman Jerry Newcombe chose today to go on the radio and “remind” listeners that some of the dead shooting victims were bound for hell. Say hello when you get there, Jerry.

Also, a question for any who care to answer: Why do so many conservatives apparently think it should be easier to carry a gun than to cast a ballot?

Tuesday addendum: Batshit-crazy Larry Pratt, executive director of the Gun Owners of America, has also suggested that the Aurora killings are part of a gun-control plot, bringing familiar bogeyman, the United Nations, into it.

Posted in History, Legal issues, Media literacy, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments »

New ‘gotcha’ politics — making fun of ignorant fellow Americans

Posted by James McPherson on July 7, 2012

We know that politicians say dumb things, some more than others. And one of the more troubling-but-ubiquitous parts of campaign season has long been how much the news media and political campaigns play “gotcha,” blowing out of proportion the occasional inevitable gaffes made by politicians.

Admittedly, a series of gaffes–or the inability to answer even the simplest questions–may signify something important about a candidate’s qualifications, but most slips of the tongue can be attributed to the exhaustion and distraction that naturally come with a campaign. How many of us could be “on” all the time? My students can verify that I get tongue-tied or say something dumb on a fairly regular basis.

But at least politicians know what they’re getting into. I’m becoming increasingly concerned with another apparent trend–that of trying to make our neighbors look stupid

I don’t know if Jay Leno did it first or best, but his “Jaywalking“segment may be what introduced many of us to the phenomenon of using video to point out how stupid Americans can be about their history, politics and current events. I’ve laughed at some of those segments, though they also make me uncomfortable because, like too much other American humor, they strike me as mean-spirited. (I liked Leno better in his early days, anyway, when his humor seemed more thoughtful and less sophomoric. How long is he going to keep telling Bill Clinton sex jokes?)

Not surprisingly, following the apparent popularity of Leno’s segments, others followed. Howard Stern has done it. Of course, Stern has never been one to shy away from the stupid or mean if it would draw and audience–and while I don’t believe in astrology, it is an interesting coincidence that Stern and fellow blowhard Rush Limbaugh share a birthday. Australian news media and others have also joined in the fun.

But it’s not just “professionals”: Now you can find Jaywalking-style videos everywhere on the web, making fun of either conservatives/Republicans or liberals/Democrats. Which you find funniest, if any, probably depends on your own political biases. But we should find all of them depressing–not just because so many Americans wouldn’t be able to pass a citizenship test, but also because one-sided buffoons think making fun of their fellow Americans is all in good fun, and that video of a small group of people, perhaps subjected to Breitbert-style editing, somehow represent what’s typical of an entire group.

Some say that the way we treat our politicians discourages many qualified people from running for office. I don’t think it’s in our best interest, then, to discourage through ridicule the relatively few people actually interested enough in the process to take part. We want more public participation, not less. And we can hope the participants will learn more through the process.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

As tea boils over, Democrats could actually win by losing Senate & White House–but probably won’t

Posted by James McPherson on August 15, 2011

So, the Tea Party-Grover Norquist-Koch brothers “Axis of No Taxes” has managed to downgrade the country’s credit rating–though caring about Standard & Poor’s poor standards is as stupid as the whole phony debt ceiling “crisis” in which the “compromise” gave Republicans “98 percent of what we want.”

One result? Barack Obama’s approval ratings are the lowest ever, and talking heads are acting as if Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann might be our next president. If that were true, it might not be all bad, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment. But I think a Perry or Bachmann presidency is only slightly more likely than the possibility that PUMAs will push Hillary Clinton into a primary campaign against Obama.

For one thing, while Obama ratings are low, he still fares far better than Congress and everyone else involved in the debt ceiling debacle, and his numbers are pretty close to those of both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan at the same point in their presidencies (and still higher than the low points for either of those two-term presidents).

Who else is down? In fact, the Tea Party is also at a new low, well below the president in popularity.

Despite that, Tea Party-esque candidates Bachmann and Perry seem to be gaining traction (though I don’t discount the fact that they’re just getting lots of attention because they’re entertaining). And in a crazy primary system in which extremist nuts can fare better than more reasoned candidates–but also boring, compromising, capable-of-actually-governing candidates–perhaps a Bachmann or Perry could win.

Maybe we’ll even see a Perry-Bachmann ticket. Though I’d prefer a PerryPalin “secession ticket,” assuming Palin isn’t busy running for John Kyl’s Senate seat. Or perhaps Perry and Bachmann will split the conservative evangelical vote, ultimately giving the GOP candidacy to serial flip-flopper but perceived moderate Mitt Romney.

I think Romney is the one Republican who might beat Obama, who probably doesn’t deserve to be re-elected but whose primary advantage seems to be the weakness of the GOP. But let’s assume Obama loses. Further, let’s assume that Republicans hold the House, and even win the Senate. Scary, huh?

Well, maybe not. In fact, such an outcome might be bad for the country–but maybe not, in the long run (and as a historian, I like looking at the long run). GOP control of Congress and the White House might even help Democrats in the long run.

Because even if the Republicans win EVERY open Senate seat, they still cannot gain the 60-seat majority that current Senate Republicans have shown us is necessary to get anything through the Senate. And if it can’t get through the Senate, we’ve found that the Republican House voted  doesn’t matter. And if a bill doesn’t get through the Senate, a Republican president can’t sign it.

Do you really think that seriously outnumbered Democrats are going to be more agreeable than slightly outnumbered Republicans have been? Or that Americans are going to understand in 2016 why the GOP couldn’t manage to do anything positive, despite controlling the White House and both houses of Congress?

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Jokers wild: Palin may fold as Trump & Bachmann deal themselves in

Posted by James McPherson on March 25, 2011

I’ve probably bragged too often about recommending Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate months before she was selected, and maybe I write too often about Palin. (In my defense–who doesn’t?)

But this seems like an appropriate time to point out that I wrote the following in January 2010, more than 14 months ago:

People keep talking about Palin as a possible 2012 Presidential candidate, but, as much as I wish that to be true, I (and others) have serious doubts. My prediction? Palin will end up as a contestant on a bad reality show … long before she ever lives in the White House.

Since then, of  course, Palin has been on a bad reality show, though her daughter was the only one who competed on one. But the chances of Palin winning the GOP nomination continue to decrease (the odds of her winning the presidency, of course, ranks slightly lower than the chance of Tina Fey becoming Barack Obama’s next secretary of state).

Fortunately for those of us who were afraid the GOP might simply produce another slate of boring candidates, Donald Trump (speaking of bad reality shows) and Michele Bachmann may ride to the rescue.

Tea Party-favorite Bachmann’s has demonstrated an appalling knowledge of U.S. history and geography (I wonder if she can see Boston Harbor from her house). And the egomaniac thrice-married Trump (like Newt and Rudy–ah, the GOP, where “family values” means “more families to value”) is scrambling to appeal to birthers and to overcome apparent previous conservative shortcomings related to gun control and abortion. He may even spend a ton of his own money doing so.

We may have some fun during Obama’s roll to re-election, after all–even if Palin doesn’t enjoy the show.

Posted in History, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Is the Tea Party racist?

Posted by James McPherson on July 23, 2010

“There is no racism in the Tea Party,” Rush Limbaugh says. “They don’t have racist signs.”

Just the fact that Rush says something would make most thinking people assume the opposite, and of course in this case he’s wrong again. I’ll paste a few of the obnoxious examples below.

But in one respect, it is wrong to say the Tea Party is racist, simply because there is no specific Tea Party (even if some of them now have their own lunatic queen in Congress). There are lots of different Tea Party groups, some loonier than others, who seem to be more offended by the actions of a black president than they were by the all-too-similar actions of the white president who proceeded him.

And there obviously are racists in the Tea Party movement, perhaps in bigger numbers than elsewhere in society. But racism won’t be the factor that makes the movement largely meaningless in the long run, other than affecting a few primaries (and thereby no doubt benefiting as man liberals as conservatives); their demise will result from a lack of cohesion or any significant goals beyond “waaah!” Take this example, from a USA Today story:

“I don’t really understand it, but I like what they stand for,” says Terry Rushing, 63, of Greensburg, La., who was among those surveyed. “They just support everything I’m looking for — lower taxes, less government. … All the good things, you know.”

No, we don’t know, any more than you do, Terry. But it probably doesn’t matter. Like the one-time media darlings of the pro-Hillary PUMAs, the tea partiers will fade away. Fox News will no doubt miss them, though five years from now probably most of us won’t remember them.

In the meantime, perhaps a few of them will go back to school and improve their spelling:


Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

McCain ‘border sheriff’ relying on wacky Webster?

Posted by James McPherson on July 22, 2010

Talk about the blind leading the blind. Or dumb and dumber. Paul Babeu, the Arizona sheriff most famous for posing as a “border sheriff” in John McCain’s goofy “complete the danged fence” ad, apparently gets his own information from… wait for it … Michael Webster.

Yes, that Michael Webster, the loony “investigative reporter” whom I’ve highlighted previously on this site. Tim Steller of the Arizona Daily Star, reports in a piece headlined that after Babeu claimed that a Mexican “drug cartel top officer” sat down with a reporter in an interview and threatened Babeu:

“We believe it was American vigilantes, and that the sheriff of Pinal County, where my two soldiers were killed, is covering this up, and we’re going to hold him, Sheriff Paul Babeu” — they said it right in the paper, this guy’s telling the reporter — “and we’re going to hold him personally responsible for this.”

Unlike the type of “journalist” played by Webster, Steller then decided to follow up:

That piqued my attention, of course, since the Arizona Daily Star is the only daily newspaper in Tucson, and I hadn’t noticed this interview. So I asked Tim Gaffney, Babeu’s spokesman, what Babeu was referring to. Gaffney pointed me to this piece by “investigative journalist” Michael Webster. Please read the piece, along with some of Webster’s other writings at U.S. Border Fire Report and Laguna Journal  and tell me if you would trust this source of information, especially if you were a sheriff.

A subhead on the search page for the article refers to Webster as “a self-described ‘investigative journalist’ with sympathies toward the militia movement.” That may make his articles ideal for regurgitation by various anti-immigration and conspiracy sites (a few examples here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here), but, as Steller suggests, hardly the kind of information you’d hope would be relied upon for any public officials with marginally more sense than Michele Bachmann.

And if he trusts Webster, I suppose this also means that Babeu, knowingly or unknowingly, is relying on outdated third-hand information from some secret “duck hunter.”

Incidentally, the reason I thought to check the Star (though I have family in Tucson and so read it on occasion, anyway), is because Steller has apparently come across one of my previous pieces on Webster and emailed me for contact info (not that it matters, because Webster apparently ignores attempts to reach him unless those attempts come from shadowy figures with drug war horror stories such as “duck hunter” or “HammerDown”  or “Juan” or “a self proclaimed Los Zetas drug cartel officer“).

In my response to Steller I pointed out Webster’s two websites and his some of his other writing, including three books–“one advertised with the line, ‘We, believe that fruit from the tree of life may be the lemon’ (the extra comma was already there), and one a ‘work of fiction’ promising, ‘The RedRoad is a journey through life learning to live in balance and harmony with Mother and if you walk soft and long you may teach others the walk of the RedRoad.'”

As I told Steller, I guess it’s when those red folks mixed with Spaniards that they became a problem. Of course the red men did an awful job with border security, which is why most of us are here with the likes of Babeu and Webster to protect us.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

‘Foxy’ Palin will now be paid to lie

Posted by James McPherson on January 12, 2010

Below: How Sarah Palin indicates the size of a fish she almost caught, how close her house is to Alaska, or how close she came to telling the truth about something:

 FILE - In this July 26, 2009 file photo, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin ...

Now, to no one’s surprise, Palin will get to do her Fox-y lying on a paid basis, at least until she gets bored and quits. Working as a Fox News commentator is a perfect job, however, for someone who apparently “doesn’t know anything” about world affairs. According to a video on the Fox News Web site, she’ll get her start tonight with someone equally truth-challenged, Bill O’Reilly.

People keep talking about Palin as a possible 2012 Presidential candidate, but, as much as I wish that to be true, I (and others) have serious doubts. My prediction? Palin will end up as a contestant on a bad reality show (perhaps competing against her former future son-in-law) long before she ever lives in the White House.

One benefit to the new gig: I’ll bet Fox will give her a new hat. But at least for Fox, the network that leads in on-screen flag graphics, Palin won’t have to change her message much from the one she wore on her T-shirt (“If you don’t love America, then why don’t you get the hell out”). Come to think of it, didn’t husband Todd try that?

Thursday update: The Christian Broadcasting Network lists Palin as one of two women “front-runners” in the GOP. The other? None other than another common liar and general fruitcake, Michelle Bachmann, who perhaps more than anyone else exemplifies why the Minnesota state bird is a loon.

Posted in Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »